RL 107: Marcus Shute, Jr. — Redefining the Lawyer Archetype and Self-Honesty
Release Date: 11/05/2018
In this episode, I am excited to have Marcus Shute, Jr. on to talk about staying true to yourself and what makes you unique as a lawyer, as compared to the "rubber-stamped" version of what a lawyer should look like.
Shute is a sports and entertainment attorney at the Shute Law Office in Nashville, TN. He enjoys leveraging his first-hand experiences and acquired knowledge of the law to shape the legacy of his clients, and his passion for providing legal services for the sports and entertainment industries stems from his love of playing sports and musical instruments.
- What obstacles he has faced based solely on his appearance, and instances where he has been pressured to alter his appearance or conform.
- How owning who you are can turn some people off to you, but will help bring you closer to your tribe of those that will be drawn to you.
- Choosing to enjoy the work you do and shaping your practice in a way that gives you a sense of contentment.
- How recent tragedies inspired him to overcome some of the intrinsic prejudices his looks can garner in a courtroom and add criminal law to his practice.
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Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:00:01] Inclusion for me began with being able to have a dialogue with somebody and being open with them. And so I use my hair sometimes as a way to start the conversation, to say well let's just challenge these norms that you believe are required to be successful.
Intro: [00:00:18] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:42] Hello my friends, thanks for being with me today for another episode of the Resilient Lawyer Podcast. I am excited to have Marcus Shute, Jr. on to talk about staying true to yourself and what makes you unique as a lawyer, as compared to the “rubber-stamped” version of what a lawyer should look like. Shute is a sports and entertainment attorney at the Shute Law Office in Nashville, TN. He enjoys leveraging his first-hand experiences and acquired knowledge of the law to shape the legacy of his clients, and his passion for providing legal services for the sports and entertainment industries stems from his love of playing sports and musical instruments. In this episode, we're going to chat about staying true to yourself and perhaps not looking like the rubber stamp version of what a lawyer should look like. I think you'll really enjoy this episode.
Before we get into the interview, if you haven’t listened to my last bonus episode go back and check it out. I shared a 6 minute guided meditation practice to help you let go of stress and anxiety. It’s a preview for my new course, Mindful Pause. So often I hear lawyers say that they know they should practice mindfulness, but they just don’t have the time. And I always tell lawyers, just start with six minutes or .1 hour. Of all the hours that you dedicate to your clients, work, and others, don’t you deserve to have at least .1 hour to yourself? Mindful Pause is designed for lawyers like you, to fit into your hectic schedule. Think of it like taking your daily vitamins to boost your well-being. Head on over to JeenaCho.com to learn more, or check it out in the show notes. And with that, here's Marcus. Marcus, welcome to the show.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:02:25] Thank you for having me, I’m very excited to be here.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:28] So let's just start by having you give us a 30-second introduction of who you are and what you do.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:02:35] So as you did say, my name is Marcus Shute, Jr. I am a sports and entertainment attorney here in Nashville Tennessee. I’m made of Nashville you know, went to high school here. Moved to Georgia for a brief minute and came back for undergrad and opened up my law practice as soon as I passed the bar.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:53] Wow that is a big jump in anxiety. I'm kind of attracted media and want me to chat with you. Is that you all sort of built a brand around you know who you are and especially how you look. So maybe for the listeners out there that, of course, can't speak. Can you just started to describe you know what you look like and what you know your client might see when they come in for their first client interview
Jeena Cho: [00:03:50] So you know I certainly remember when I was in law school there was and I went to law school back in the 2000s and there was sort of a lot of talk about you know confirming that you want to look like a lawyer or you want to dress the part. And you know I know that I certainly spent a lot of time sort of trying to look the part I was an assistant state attorney immediately after graduating from law school. And you know when I start and put on a suit and especially because I had to sort of be in the courtroom all the time and I didn't want to be mistaken for you know a court reporter or a Korean language interpreter. So I'm curious you know like Did you ever feel like you felt the pressure to conform you know to cut off your dreads or to cover up your tattoos. Of course, she can't really do much about the color of your skin or your height.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:04:41] Right you're right. Yes. So I did. And actually, it started you know back when I was an undergrad so I was an undergrad in the 2000s and I had a teacher a professor you know say to me that hey if you plan on pursuing your career in law that you're probably going to have to cut your hair. Most law firms won't accept you. And at the time I was a student athlete so I was hoping that I would go pro but it didn't work out that way. So I was still adamant in opposition about why I don't think that I should have to make that change of who I am to fit in or to still practice law. So and also again in law school. I also was told by some teachers there that I should consider changing my hairstyle to fit in to make sure that I'd be able to advance forward in different law firms. So those are things I face. And like you going into courtrooms wanting to make sure that I look the part of an attorney was something I was conscious of because I didn't want my clients you know my potential client in the future to be impacted by somebody presuming that you know I'm not an attorney because I look like I could be a defendant.
Jeena Cho: [00:06:00] Right. Well I mean well I guess to back up a little bit. So at what point were you like I am not cutting off my tights and I'm not going to try to look like the rubber stamp fashion of what a billion looks like.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:06:15] I would say in my undergraduate years is kind of when I got that foundation. Now OK this is kind of who I am like most people when they're going through undergrad. You know you're away from your parents is your first time being on your own. So you are learning a lot about yourself. And you know I learned a lot about my history and it was something that is so important for me personally and also it also started conversations so for me you know when we talk about inclusion and I know we'll probably talk about that later but it's inclusion for me began with being able to have a dialogue with somebody being open worker and so I use my hair sometimes as a way to start the conversation to say well let's challenge these norms that you believe are required to be successful. I would say definitely no undergrad.
Jeena Cho: [00:08:36] And I think you know do you think the reverse is also how some people are going to look at you look at your Web site and be like Yup he's not only my lawyer.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:08:45] Absolutely. I mean so I mentioned I taught high school so I taught Spanish in government when I taught there. And so you can imagine you know young African-American boys and girls that see somebody who looks like them. They can talk like them but they can also speak another language. And I think that's the same thing that applies to my law practice. When I recruit players or musicians or writers or I go to a writers workshop and my kind of blend in and almost look like I could be one of them and then when I say hey I'm an attorney. Let's talk about you know what you're doing as they do some research and like you said to go to my website and almost immediately feel like they're drawn to me because they can relate to me instantly.
Jeena Cho: [00:11:58] You know. Yeah. And especially as lawyers you know there is so much pressure to look the part of a lawyer and that you know and to have a certain type of job and strange type of prestige and you know just on and on and often that's like the end ingredient or unhappiness you know like you. And you can kind of get on that treadmill of just checking all the boxes. But then someplace you look up and you're like wow I'm really unhappy and I think that unhappiness that this content comes from being completely out of touch with yourself you know.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:12:36] So true. So true. Like you know when you are taking the boxes like where I have to do this or I have to drive this type of car I had to practice this type of way where I had to have my office set up this type away and you start running trying to achieve all those goals that you think our goals. And then once you do that you will go back and say wow I'm on the field and that's another thing that you know makes it makes it easier for me to do what I do because I want to enjoy what I do. I wanted to be a passion and I want to feel like I'm just going in punching the clock. I want to you know look forward to every day when I'm getting up to go to work. This is what I'm choosing to do and I enjoy it.
Jeena Cho: [00:13:14] So yeah will say more about that about choosing to enjoy the work that you do on shaping your practice in a way that gives you that sense of contentment.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:13:26] So it would help to give a little context of why I chose sports entertainment. I've worked for Fortune 500 companies before been a store manager. And you know I've worked for other companies and help you know reach their goals and metrics and indeed will perform well. But you know I was frustrated because I felt like I was in the field and it didn't bring me joy. It was like oh I did I did something well. I don't feel good about you know what I did. So when I started to look at what area of law I wanted to practice or you know being an attorney period I wanted it to be something that I enjoy doing where there wouldn't be a time where I look up to say I'm frustrated. I'm angry with what I'm doing because if pay if I am then that means I need to refocus on what it is that I chose to do because it's all up to me.
[00:14:19] And that's part of the reason why I opted to start my own practice and the law firm as opposed to going to join a big law firm. Although I interviewed I knew that I would be working you know 50 60 hours a week. At the direction of my superiors, whatever case came to the door that you would be my job for the time being. And I learned that if I could find a way to choose the things that I enjoy and it relates to my law practice then it won't feel like work I'll just be challenging myself to be a better version of myself to learn more about certain areas of law and those things have been very helpful. You know it helps keep you away from that thing. We were just talking about checking out those boxes because I'm not looking for accolades because it's my personal enjoyment it's not you know I need a B.A. you know top layer 100 in this area practice because that's not what drives me you know.
Jeena Cho: [00:15:20] Yeah. And I always find those warrants are so strange because it's like you pay for it.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:15:29] Right now.
Jeena Cho: [00:15:32] Like you're like that and whatever and superstar lawyer and we want you to pass. And in fact, it's like now.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:15:39] Right. Or they give you a tour you go pay a hundred bucks to get Lycett or 250 for this nice little placard 30 50 for a little mini there. And it's like it's you know ego. I don't know how you go. Someone once told me ego means edging God out. And you know just not thinking and the idea that you know it's bigger than you. So what I do is intentional so having my hair like it is having my tattoos like they are is intentional because it's bigger than me it's for those that come behind me so that the obstacles that I face they won't have to.
Jeena Cho: [00:16:14] Yeah. Talk a little bit about some of the obstacles that do face because of you know your locks.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:16:21] Yeah. So one particular incident that has kind of been my driving point in WA opened up my practice to criminal law. When I was in law school I interned with a law office and went to court. And when the recess was about to happen the attorney that I was practicing under wanted me to aim once to introduce me to the judge. And so she got the judge's attention and said you know this is Mr. shooty is pregnant under Rule 7 with our office. And the response from the judge in open court was oh I thought that was your client. And it was very disheartening because I had been there all morning had spoken to her on some other Clines cases and so, of course, there were people in the courtroom. So immediately I felt ashamed because of her perception of me and for the beginning of my practice, I didn't do a lot of criminal work because I always would assume that everybody would have her same perception. And so it wasn't until she knows some of the tragedies like Michael Brown Eric Garner happened. I felt inspired to get involved in the criminal justice system and with a law degree what better way than to defend those that are innocent. And so that that would really launch me into it.
Now you know I have a very successful you know area of law practice in criminal defense and a lot of that goes to. To me, I think that it helps to change the perception of police officers that I have to question in cross-examination when looking at somebody that normally in their line of work they only are arrested. And now they're having to look at this same type of description that they normally get as an attorney that questions them. So those are some things I'd definitely say some of those obstacles. You know sometimes when I go to different courthouses they don't know that I don't frequent ally sometimes security guards may ask me for my bar card different things like that. But you know just kind of comes with the territory. I've accepted that I will say some of those obstacles. And for me, it's about how I go how I am able to overcome them because I know that someone is always watching and the way that I know proceed through dealing with those obstacles will help somebody else.
Jeena Cho: [00:18:44] Yeah. So how do you deal with that? You know how do you deal with watching you know five white Villiers just get way Theriault and then you come up and he's like can I use your marker and I'm presuming you're in a suit like you're in a court and walked it.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:19:00] Absolutely yeah absolutely.
Jeena Cho: [00:19:02] How do you deal with that. You said when you say you know I've learned how to overcome those obstacles like what does it look like.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:19:10] So you know the thing to be learned is you can say a lot of things untrue and it's about how you say. So there are some signs where we say speak the truth in love or you know even if you can joke about it a little bit and not take it to heart that they haven't been exposed to a lot of different cultures. For me I was exposed a lot of different cultures and growing up I went to magnet schools and so I learned Spanish at a young age because I was just interested in the culture and because of that, it taught me to respect people that were different from me. Everybody doesn't have that same upbringing. So when you know the security guard say Can I see your bar card as you know out may laugh at him and say Did you forget to ask. You know the other guys are there. And then they may smile sheepishly or something like that and or I may say this new policy that we're doing now. Do we ask everyone you know and if not they try to do it in a way that makes them feel comfortable to wear it?
[00:20:18] They will want to respond because then by me asking them that openly question it. It challenges them to give me an answer and they don't want to say oh because you're the black guy because you know you know so you know. But even then a month and then once I do show them your car they never forget me. So that's true and that's why I've learned you know because there were times where I and I have to be honest I'm very transparent. There are times where I didn't respond as well where I would respond with anger and frustration. And I had to learn that that's not the best way for me to handle it. Because what could happen to me. And then too it's a teachable moment for them. So give them the opportunity to learn.
Jeena Cho: [00:21:03] Yeah. How do you deal with that, when you're in the courtroom and a juror mistakes you for the defendant?
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:21:10] You know that that was the only time that has happened that I have not had it happened before. I think that now for it at least and most of the courts that are practically in the middle Tennessee area. I've met a lot of the clerks and there are some judges that I haven't been in front of him and some just for good that I have been there from them before there one judge or particular that introduces himself to me every time I mean it's more that I go maybe every two or three months and he's always like Well welcome to the core of this issue in his car just kind of puts her head down like I know I know.
[00:21:45] Like we e-mail a lot. So you know sometimes it happens and you know because they're in the position that they're here. You know I always will defer to give them that grace because again at the end of the day I'm advocating for someone else and I have to always keep that in mind. And I want to keep their interest you know at the top of my list. And so you there if there is if it is a time where they say something they do something now wait till the case is concluded and then I'll go speak to the judge in chambers.
Jeena Cho: [00:22:18] What do you say when you go into chambers.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:22:21] So I'll just ask. You know I got out asked Mike like the one, in particular, that doesn't remember me when we go back to our side. Now I know I don't come here a lot but you know you would think they would be looking at me. You remember me at all the others that come up here and most of the time with their state they laughed like them and said oh you know I just want you know some you know something and I wasn't paying attention. I was looking at the next case or you know and then we just talk about you know other things I use that as an opportunity to advocate for things that I think to change in the law and get their perspective. So sometimes by their mistakes gives me insight and you know gives me a little bit more information that I otherwise may not have got. Had they not made the blunder.
Jeena Cho: [00:23:07] Yeah and I think how you handle those moments. It's tricky. It's hard. I mean I you know I've never been mistaken for a defendant probably examination female and you know we don't fit that stereotype. But I have been mistaken for you know whatever various Asian language interpreter or-or you know the paralegal and you know I think those type of experiences can really like wear you down if you're not careful about it. You know you internalize that and not have these conversations with my white male lawyer colleagues and know like what's a big deal. You know you brush it off and I'm like but you don't understand what walking into a place and people assume things about you just based on your look how that can just get really you know it just wears sign you and I had to say you know I can either allow this to really impact me or-or I can choose a different response. But it's not you know it's not always easy and sometimes I feel really frustrated by those sort of like what's the big deal. You I just laugh it off like but that doesn't happen to you when you when have you ever been mistaken for the defendant or the language you know the language interpreter or that you know the paralegal.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:24:32] Right yeah. So I'm a male. And so I've never been in the position of a woman before. And so I have two daughters and now that I have daughters and of course with you know the need to move and leave things in a different perspective than I would before I had children and a daughter specifically because I have three younger sisters and even still some of my perspectives was a male privilege perspective. And a lot of times like even hearing you talk about her you know white male colleagues when they say just brush it off or this or just there.
[00:25:04] I've seen myself do that too when or if a woman tells me something and says You know I feel this way about you know how that may interact with me and I would say wow I never would have considered that because I'm a male. So I don't know what it's like to be in your position. And so it is sometimes when I hear like I hear somebody or special specifically you know white male white male colleagues I believe that because of how I live they feel comfortable with asking me questions about things that they may be looking at from a lens that's not respectful of everybody else's experience. And so I use that as an opportunity to try to tell them why we're here is why it's so exhausting. Because when you get waved through I get stopped and I get one did not have to take my bill call and I it slows down my day and not only that you get to look like this great guy.
Turun just as waved through and this guy's got to take off his clothes pretty much to get to security. And so it's the perception of who's the attorney that you want to deal with. Right. The guy has waved through the looks like he is buddy buddy with everybody or the guy that didn't treat like he's trying to get on the airplane to get into the court. And so I definitely can appreciate that the sentiment that you feel about when they tell you to get away with this dog is ok it's not a big deal. And so for me, I did try to keep my try to be respectful for other people's experiences because I don't know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. And I think that oftentimes that that value is held by those who are in the minority. It's really all about those that are in the majority.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:47] So yeah I think that you know is a person of color and it teaches you to be empathetic. I think if you're sort of in that super majority and you are always sort of given all of these privileges that is something I choose it like not I mean like I've you know I've had these conversations with my colleague and they're just like sometimes I'll get like this like this like disbelief like I really just can't believe it that happens to you all the time. Like butter. Yes. Because I think we all kind of have this assumption that the way that we experience the world is how everybody else experiences the world right. And you know and I often feel like this is sort of what happens when we talk about you know like police misconduct is like well I've never had a negative interaction with the police. I just like the right here.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:27:45] That's what's so true. And in that we're in Nassau we're having it is where the devices on that specific subject because there are people that feel like certain areas of national or over the police. And you know they feel threatened when the police are around there other people they feel like well that's you know who is come to for help or who I go to for help and I take my child with right along. So it's so different you know to have those different perspectives and that's why I always encourage people to just you know try to take a look from their perception her position to see what it's like from their perspective because you never know what it's like for someone else. And when you genuinely take the time to understand you know what they've been dealing with and you may change your mind. Like I say I tell my friends like I don't. I don't get on Facebook to say what my priest my position is on one where or another because I think most times people use their platform to read.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:46] Like reinforcing bullies.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:28:48] Yes. Yes exactly. Exactly that's it. That's what it's for. Because you want them to like it and agree with you to make you feel better about it but you really don't want to engage in a dialogue to help you learn something that you know maybe differ in the way that you've been taught. So but I think that you know that those are having those conversations are helpful to try to shift the world's perception.
Jeena Cho: [00:29:12] Yeah. So Marcus, for the listeners out there that want to check you out or want to learn more about you, where’s the best place for them to do that?
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:29:25] So the best place is on my website, that'll be shutelaw.com.
Jeena Cho: [00:29:36] So Marcus before I let you go, one final question for you. The name of this podcast is called The Resilient Lawyer, what does it mean to be a resilient lawyer to you?
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:29:53] So to me to be a resilient lawyer to someone that knows who they are. And still, allow that to dictate how they move in their life and in their practice of law when they face challenges and obstacles in the field that there may be feeling defeated to revisit those values again. What brought you to their place to want to be inspired to move forward as you do? So that's what a resilient lawyer would be to me.
Jeena Cho: [00:30:22] Marcus, thank you so much for sharing your time with me today.
Marcus Shute, Jr.: [00:30:26] Jeena, thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed it.
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